Mariners Medical Arts Center

Julius Shulman photography archive, 1936-1997.

Mariners Medical Arts Center


Generations of Southern Californians know this group of three small buildings on a busy shopping street. It is one of Neutra’s best designs in how it functions internally and in how it exemplifies good urban design, being both resolutely Modern and neighborly. The thesis for this building was to prove that a clinic “does not have to be a forbidding intimidating institution” so nature’s health-giving benefits, as well as privacy and lighting, were of prime importance. A garden between two one-storey buildings on the street serve as the real “lobby” for the compound commissioned by eleven doctors. Walking past lush tropical plants and reflecting pools was to confer calm upon visitors, to slow the pace of pounding hearts. In fact, the psychiatrists’ offices were placed in the rear two-storey structure, so that by the time visitors reached them they would have passed all the landscaping and reflecting pools. Neutra’s clients were acutely aware of the quantifiable connection between surroundings and behavior. Citing a study of 750 rats under lighting conditions, dentist Thomas W. Doan wrote Neutra (17 August 1952) about the “locally illuminated spot” of the patient’s mouth, and what the “scanning eye of the dentist would see peripherally as we are manipulating and working.” He pointed out that “the patient had to be considered by the architect as a subject to be diverted as well as he can from the treatment impact on his nervous system …. instead of watching the fingers, the facial expression of the dentist, and expecting the worst.” Ergo, Neutra’s brief was to increase the focus and concentration of the surgeon dentist, and to decrease the focus of the patient.

The coverings for the walkways between the buildings are asymmetrically laid; they have some thickness and are simply not thin planes, serving to deeply connect the buildings and to provide a greater sense of protection for the visitor. Neutra elected to use vertical metal louvers rather than overhangs for shade and privacy: “The site sits 45 degrees off the North which is the most difficult orientation for sun protection, as all four sides receive sun, with two sides receiving the hottest afternoon sun … By plotting the sun angles, overhangs were found to be effective only in the southeast and the southwest and only for very high windows … “

Project Detail

Year Built


Project Architect

Richard Neutra


Eleven doctors


1901 Westcliff Drive
Newport Beach, California

Current Status